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12 Days of Thanksgiving

Our many reasons for thanks amount to many reasons for giving

As much a part of Thanksgiving as the feast is its sharing.    
    Like turkey, gratitude is a dish best taken in company. It’s just too big to manage on your own. Alongside the dressing, potatoes and cranberries, tales of blessings make the rounds.
    With full hearts and bellies, we’re primed to encompass the community in our circle of grace.
    Thanksgiving opens the giving-est time of the year. December spending goes beyond the Chanukah and Christmas gifts we buy for family and friends.
    Each year, more charities compete for their share of your income. Registered nonprofits — including charities, civic and interest groups — increased by 21 percent between 2001 and 2011.
    How do you decide where to give? How do you prioritize among thousands of worthy causes?
    Follow your heart — but first do a bit of research, the experts advise.
    To guide you, we’ve checked out 12 we found inspiring.

profiles by Diana ­Beechener Alkire, Susan Apelskog, Val Hymes, Sandra Olivetti ­Martin, Bob ­Melamud, Marilyn Recknor, Beverly Pish, Heidi Schmidt and Michelle Steel


Anne Arundel County Public Schools Holiday ­Sharing Program

Aim: To provide 3,500 needy elementary students with a book, hat, gloves and socks.
Angle: Seven public high schools each sponsor an elementary school within their feeder system, making sure no student goes into winter cold.
Bang for your buck: For under $20 you can give a needy student a holiday gift of warmth and pleasure by covering cold hands, feet and head and adding a book to sweeten the deal.
How to give: Call your area high school; pack and deliver a holiday bag.
Annapolis: Lisa Pitt: 410-266-5240;
Arundel: Denise Stephanos: 410-647-6500;
Broadneck: Pat Jones: 410-757-1300;
Glen Burnie: Lynn Smothers: 410-761-8950;
Meade: Bobbie Coffman: 410-674-7710;
Old Mill: Andy Moede: 410-969-9010;
North County: Becky Dellinger: 410-222-6970.
When to give: Through December 6

Creating Communities

Aim: Provide 100 percent-scholarship music and arts programs that teach life skills to at-risk and economically disadvantaged young people of Anne Arundel County. Over 180 young people were served in 2013 with the award-winning summer Arts Mentorship Academy, The Youth Arts Fellowship (for teens) and after-school programs at Eastport United Methodist Church, Meade Middle School and Annapolis Middle School. Music, art, photography, creative writing and dance are all part of the life-changing mix, but the arts are only the starting point.
Angle: Creating Communities is a small nonprofit that gets a big impact by connecting kids who are often overlooked in school with their creative and academic potential. Research by the National Endowment for the Arts shows “at-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school also tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement.” Creating Communities gives kids positive ways to spend their time and develop their talent; they in turn develop their goals, dreams and college plans.
Bang for your buck: Creating Communities is in the Volunteer Center of Anne Arundel County’s Volunteer Hall of Fame and executive director Rob Levit is 2013 Innovator of the Year (Maryland Daily Record). $200 sends a child to the summer arts program; $150 purchases art supplies for each eight-week after-school program; $50 feeds a family at Creating Communities’ annual Thanksgiving dinner.
How to give: or
When to give: Through December 31.

Chesapeake ­Community Chorus

Aim: To raise funds for Calvert County charities including Hospice of Calvert County, the Burnett-Hospice House, Windows of Strength, Calvert County Lions Club, Calvert County Elks Lodge, American Legion Posts, Calvert County Fair, Blue Crabs Baseball, Hospice Festival of Trees, Calvert County Memorial Day and Veterans Day programs, plus nursing homes and retirement homes, several local food pantries and housing renovations for the sick and handicapped.
Angle: Concerts are programmed to fit the concert venue requested by the sponsoring organization. Concert music can be arranged for church (contemporary, gospel and classical Christian favorites), patriotic (Star Spangled Banner, etc.) or social events. Since the chorus is 100 percent volunteer, there is no charge for these programs, allowing all money collected to go directly to the charity the function supports.
Bang for your buck: In 11 seasons, the Chorus has raised over $70,000.
How to give: Larry Brown, Owings: 301-855-7477;
When to give: Throughout the year.

Fisher House

Aim: Fisher House provides homes and a sympathetic environment to military families while their enlisted or veteran loved ones are seeking medical treatment. Families stay in homes near military medical centers, where they share kitchens with other military families and have access to support programs while their family members are treated. When the houses are booked, Fisher House provides hotel rooms and plane tickets for families that need to travel to hospitals or treatment centers.
Angle: Based in Rockville, Fisher House was founded locally but quickly expanded nationally. There are currently 62 houses for families as well as hotel room rented nationally.
Bang for your buck: With 95 percent of donated money going directly into the building and maintaining of facilities or the creation of support programs, Fisher House is one of the highest ranked nonprofits on Charity Navigator. Over 180,000 families have shared five million days of lodging.
How to give: Visit the Fisher House website ( to donate cars or money. You can also give back while shopping this holiday season by supporting stores that give to Fisher House:
When to give: With constant demand, year-round giving is appreciated.

Junior League of Annapolis

Aim: Junior League is an international organization of women dedicated to promoting voluntarism and thereby improving communities.
Angle: Locally, Junior League of Annapolis, Inc., dedicates nearly a thousand hours a year to supporting women and children in Anne Arundel County.
Bang for your buck: The largest current community impact projects are with Sarah’s House at Fort Meade and Center of Help in Annapolis, tutoring middle- and high school-aged students from non-English speaking backgrounds. Additional partnerships have supported Lighthouse Shelter, Chrysallis House and Girls on the Run of Greater Chesapeake among many others with volunteer support from members.
How to give: JLA hosts a gift wrapping center in the Westfield Annapolis Mall, wrapping gifts for shoppers throughout December. This year find the wrappers in a storefront across from Crabtree & Evelyn in the main mall corridor. You can get your gifts wrapped for $4 to $10 with oversized packages priced up to $35.
When to give: JLA wraps December 7 through Christmas Eve.

METAvivor President Kelly Lange, left, and past president Dian “CJ” Corneliussen-James, right, present the first of seven research grants to Dr. Danny Welch.


Aim: Among women and men diagnosed with breast cancer, 30 percent will eventually reach Stage 4 (metastatic breast cancer), with the disease spread to other organs and average survival 18 to 24 months. Only two percent of funds raised by all breast cancer organizations go to research for MBC. METAvivor’s goal is 30/30: 30 percent of breast cancer donations for the 30 percent with metastatic breast cancer.
Angle: “Survivors” refer to people who completed treatment and are healthy. Few people with metastatic breast cancer are expected to beat the disease. METAvivors are living with a metastasis that will ultimately take their lives. Not such a rosy pink world.
Bang for your buck: Begun as a support group in 2008, METAvivor turned its focus to fundraising in 2009. It has since raised $600,000, and word of its work has spread throughout the world. One hundred percent of donations go to research.
How to give: Organizing events is challenging because most volunteers have metastatic breast cancer, so METAvivor focuses on a web presence: Write a check (METAvivor, 1783 Forest Dr., #184 Annapolis, MD 21403). Honor or remember loved ones. Host fundraising events. Donate through United Way or Combined Federal Campaign. (See website for guidelines.)
When to give: Throughout the year.

Safe Harbor (Calvert County Health Dept.)

Aim: Safe Harbor is a residential shelter where abused women and their children find a supportive family experience while learning to establish a healthy living environment. The program includes mental health services and drug treatment as well as prevention and education in parenting. Children who have seen violence in their homes see how a peaceful, non-threatening environment encourages healthier conflict resolution.
Angle: One family needs adoption for Christmas giving. The Center also needs twin comforters, bath towels and gently used clothing for all ages. Additionally, basic needs donations, such as hygiene, toiletry and beauty products, are helpful. Monetary donations are appreciated to maintain the overall program.
Bang for your buck: Safe harbor serves 30 to 50 families each year.  
How to give: To donate, call Cindy at 410-535-1121. Monetary donations can be sent in as checks to P.O. Box 801, Prince Frederick, MD 20678.
When to give: Donations are needed now and throughout the year.


Aim: Shoes protect feet from cuts and infection that can be life threatening if untreated. But for many, such basic necessities are out of reach. One in four adults in the world lives on less than $1 a day. They — and their families — are likely to go shoeless. As well as new and used shoes, clothes are collected and distributed both by direct donations to people in need and by provisioning micro-enterprises creating jobs in poor communities.
Angle: Take it local: Maryland-based Charm City Run’s partnership with the Nashville, Tenn. based Soles4Souls means shoes for charities in each of the shoe store’s five retail location: Orphan Grain in Annapolis, Paul’s Place in Baltimore, Anna’s House in Bel Air, Grassroots Crisis Center in Clarksville or Paul’s Place in Timonium.
Bang for your buck: Since 2006, Soles4Souls has provided some 20 million pairs of shoes to help victims of disaster and poverty in the U.S. and shoes across 127 countries. Earns Charity Navigator’s four-star rating (exceptional), outperforming most charities in its cause.
How to give: Stop in a Charm City Run and pay $2 for a pair of trainers to be delivered in January to your community’s chosen charity. Buy as many as you like.
When to give: Now through December via Charm City Run.